A basic guide to getting started with WordPress

wordpress-iconA few weeks ago we brought you A basic guide to getting started with Tumblr, which is a great option for those wanting to get started with blogging as soon as possible with minimal effort, a slick dashboard and the chance to share all kinds of content with the huge Tumblr community.

In many ways WordPress is very similar, you can publish any content you please, write posts, follow people, customise your blog, etc, but some people just prefer the way it looks and works to Tumblr, so if you’re serious about this blogging business you might want to give both a whirl and see which you like the best.

So if you’ve always wanted to venture into the word of WordPress but have never known where to start or if you thought it was the name for some crazy old printing machine, then here’s our basic introduction to the platform, including everything you need to know about getting started, some top tips about who to follow and extra resources if you want to find out more.

So what is it?

WordPress is an online platform, which basically presents you with a way to blog. So you sign up to an account, customise your blog and then you can start publishing your content.

It’s important to note that you can use WordPress in any way you please, just like Tumblr you can add audio, photos and videos to posts. However, as we noted in the Tumblr guide, some might argue that it’s better suited to longer, wordier posts, but as you’ll see later on when you go and explore what other users are up to, you’ll see that opinion isn’t held by everyone! So use it however you please boys and girls!

How do you get started?

To begin your blogging journey you’ll need to visit www.wordpress.com and create a brand new account. You’ll then be asked to pick a username, password and the URL you’d like your blog to be found at.

Put some thought into this step as you’ll regret it if you choose something ridiculous later on (you can change it, but it may cause a few issues), assuming other users haven’t already taken it, you can choose whatever you’d like, such as YOURLOVELYNAMEHERE.tumblr.com if you want to, which is always a good option if you’re building a personal blog, home page or work-related portfolio.

There’s lots more to do, but that’s how you set up your own WordPress blog and you’ll now be greeted by the main Dashboard, which looks a little intimidating and FULL of options, but it’s actually really easy to get started.

How do you publish your first post?

wordpress-first-postOnce you’ve signed up to a new WordPress account there are all kinds of things you can do with your blog, like add Widgets, change the theme and pen a brilliant about page, but you might want to write a quick introductory post first so you’ve got some content on the blog already.

Go to your left hand menu bar in the Dashboard and click Posts > Add Post. Now you’re greeted with an empty box, which is where you can start writing or just copy and paste some text you’ve already written into there.

All of the basic text functions run along the top of the box, like an option to make things bold, italic and add in bullet points or hyperlinks. Above that bar you’ll see three little icons and this is how you add different types of media into your posts, the first one allows you to add photos, video and audio, the second allows you to add a poll and the third is a form, depending on the type of content you’re posting.

On the right hand side of the screen you’ll see an option for Categories and Tags. It’s important you fill in these fields as it’ll mean people are more likely to find the content they want to read and means your posts will become more visible in the likes of Freshly Pressed and Google. Start a new basic category, write in some tags about what your post is about, like “pets” or “life” and once you’re done hit the blue “publish” button. And there you do, your first post is published!

It’s worth noting that you can go back through old posts and amend them, tweak them or completely delete them whenever you please, so if you’d like to publish an introductory post but you’re worried your tags might not be right and you’ve added a silly photo, who cares, get it published to begin with then go back through it once you’ve got your bearings.

How do you customise your blog?

wordpress-themes-examplesJust like when you’re using Tumblr you can customise elements of your WordPress blog. Go from Dashboard > Appearance > Manage Themes and you’ll see you have options to play around with the theme you’re using.

The theme is the overall look of your Tumblr blog and you can choose free ones or premium ones that’ll cost you a little bit extra. You can browse through the WordPress themes that are available on the Manage Themes page or search based on the kind of thing you’re looking for, whether it’s the newest one available or one with three columns.

Once you’ve picked a theme you like you can Live Preview it to see how it’ll look with your title and content and then hit Activate to make it live.

From the Appearance section there are all kinds of other changes you can make, like tweaking the header image you have (depending on your theme), changing the background or even paying for more control over the way your site looks with Custom Design, a feature you can pay for to make even bigger changes.

How do you find and follow cool people?

Unlike Tumblr, WordPress doesn’t put quite as much emphasis on who to “follow”. However, it’s still possible, encouraged and fairly easy to find fellow WordPress users who are writing great content that you may want to go and check out or even subscribe to.

The best place to start finding interesting WordPress bloggers to follow is probably Freshly Pressed, a page you can access from your Dashboard, which presents some of the top and most interesting posts of the day to you in a handy grid format. You can read the stories, explore what else other readers have been up to or delve deeper into content based on topics and categories.

Once you find a WordPress user you want to “follow”, go up to the top menu bar (you need to be signed in) and just click the right button. You’ll also see you can view more about the users, like what they’re written and even re-blog their content from this menu too. Once you’ve followed them you can get updates when they’ve posted new content, which can all be managed in Dashboard > Blogs I Follow.

How to self host your blog

It’s worth mentioning that you can also have a self-hosted WordPress blog too, which means you can use the blogging platform on a bit of the internet you own instead of using WordPress servers. Although we wouldn’t recommend this step if you’re a beginner and for now want a really simple and easy solution, it isn’t hard to set one up. There’s some great WordPress documentation below to help you too.

Great resources for learning more and becoming a WordPress whizz

WordPress has its own series of pages, tutorials and information for beginners over in its dedicated Support area.

For a really simple resource about understanding what it means to host your own WordPress blog and how to do it, check out The Beginner’s Guide to WordPress on Webhosting Search.

If you’ve already got your blog self hosted and need help, visit the documentation pages over at WordPress.org.

About Becca Caddy

Becca is freelance writer specialising in all things tech, web culture and social media. She works as the Editor of Shiny Shiny and the UK Editor of Popgadget and has written for various print and online publications, including The Sunday Times, BitchBuzz and New Media Age’s spin-off publication, Reputation Online. Follow Becca on Twitter: @beccacaddy